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There is one word that characterises everything that is undermining the beautiful game – money – we knew that even before Abramovich bought the Premier League title for Chelsea – but the rot is going deeper, much deeper and threatens to destroy the soul of the game. Why? The fans are different now and without “fans”, let’s not forget that is short for fanatic, a sterility and remoteness becomes part of the fabric of football – but football cannot survive as sterile and bland. It needs passion, commitment and it needs that affinity between the fans and their club, their team. That is disappearing.
Notice the title of this piece says “supporters” – because yes, the clubs have their “supporters”, they have their armchairs, the pub screens and wear the new logo shirt and some of them go to games – probably more occasionally than frequently. They demand the club of their choice spends to bring success; they are quick to boo and complain when player performances do not meet expectation and they look around the ground waiting for someone else to start the singing yet bemoan the lack of atmosphere in the stadiums. They preface conversations with “a long time (insert name of club) fan” as they feel the need to earn credibility and make up for the fact that in reality they have only seen a few live matches in the last decade.
The reason is they feel no real affinity with the club or players – and the same can be said of the badge kissers on the pitch whose temporary stay with a club based hundreds, maybe thousands of miles from their place of birth is a money accumulating exercise rather than genuine pride in representing a club, its tradition and its fans.
Of course genuine fans do exist; they feel each game, pain or pleasure, win or lose, they shout, they sing and follow their team far and wide.
They get their team’s football players photos, signed shirts and display them with genuine pride. But they are declining in numbers as the spiralling costs of being a football supporter make it available to only those who consider football as just another option upon which to spend their large disposable income; who think nothing of missing games when they interfere with family or social life.
For real fans football is their lives and football needs these fans, the discretionary spending power of the uncommitted supporter is not a business model to rely on – therein lies the problem, football has become business and it is losing loyal customers.
write by Lovell